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City of Troy Makes Long-Awaited Return in Dewhurst

The appeal of the Dewhurst Stakes (G1) persists even though it has a strong tendency to be little more than a coronation these days. Some people love to see a champion against any backdrop. That is hardly unique to racing.

There is another element which holds the interest of those who like competition and betting puzzles. Because these are 2-year-olds, we do not always know in advance when we are crowning a champion.

In 2020, St Mark’s Basilica , the best horse Aidan O’Brien has ever sent to the race, could be backed at 10-1. Two years before was something of a coronation for Too Darn Hot . But who spotted at the time that he was beating the Commonwealth Cup (G1) and Derby (G1) winners into second and third?

A glance at the market tells us we are looking at another victory parade this year. Normally, the prohibitive favorite has evidence to present from more recently than mid-July. Since Frankel , there have been nine Dewhurst favorites priced even-money or shorter. The number of days off they had leading into the race had been 27, 27, 28, 74, 27, 27, 50, 28, 21.

You might notice an outlier in that list. The 74-day absent favorite was Expert Eye , who had last run in the Vintage Stakes (G2) at Goodwood. He was a top-class horse, but he ran terribly in the Dewhurst.

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This is absolutely not to say that any sort of trend is against City of Troy  in this year’s Dewhurst. Form is more important than any trend and his form is the best in the race. The message is that there has been an awful lot of racing since he won the Superlative Stakes (G2) on his most recent run 91 days ago. At the time, Henry Longfellow  and Vandeek  had not seen the track. Rosallion  was a mere maiden winner.

The son of Justify   is the ante-post favorite for the Two Thousand Guineas (G1) after landing the Superlative Stakes by 6 1/2 lengths.

After beating Haatem  at Newmarket, City of Troy was set to line up in the National Stakes (G1) but missed out due to unsuitable ground.

“The ground is not going to be ideal for City of Troy,” said trainer Aidan O’Brien. “He moves beautifully and would prefer real good ground, but we’re running out of options and we need to get that third run of the season into him.

“Everything has gone well since he was supposed to run at the Curragh. He’s the same weight now as he was going to the Curragh so he has obviously matured and got stronger. We’re very happy with him and he’s doing everything nicely and easily.”

Likely second-favorite Iberian  has had time for a revival in the meantime. He won a maiden in June, then dented his monster reputation a little when second to Haatem at Goodwood. He buffed that out with success in the Champagne Stakes (G2) at Doncaster.

He leads a group of challengers who bring form from most of the major Dewhurst trials. 

Alyanaabi  won the Tattersalls Stakes (G3), Indian Run  the Acomb Stakes (G3), Array  the Mill Reef Stakes (G2), and Henry Adams  represents the Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere (G1), although he was a well-held fourth behind Rosallion. The problem they all have is that their form comes from a background of mediocrity.

This year’s 2-year-old division has lacked depth, as the ratings would tell you. All the lesser group race trials mentioned above produced Racing Post Ratings on the winner that were well below the 10-year average.

Conversely, City of Troy’s winning performance in the Superlative was the best in the race since RPRs started in the late 1980s. While he may be an atypical Dewhurst favorite, if ever there was room for a champion juvenile to post an unassailable performance in July it would be this year.

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